love, life, and the pursuit of liberation
I experienced a powerful service last Sunday that’s been percolating in my mind. Bishop T.D. Jakes preached from Matthew 4:1-11, and one of the points he made from the story of Jesus being tempted on the mountain was that no one, no thing, no entity can promise you what’s already yours. In this scripture, the devil tempted Christ with the riches of the valley without realizing that the wealth already belonged to Him because he was the Son of God. For me, I reflect on all the ways that I’ve believed that external things would bring me peace and joy, failing to recognize those conditions were already within me.
Joy is the knowing and unshakeable faith that all things serve your greater good. It is also assurance that God has ordered those experiences to fulfill your unique purpose in life.
If that is the definition of true joy (as opposed to the temporary emotion “happiness” that results from pleasure and stimulation), we cannot internalize the experiences (or people) that don’t turn out the way we hoped they would. Instead, we can learn that those experiences existed as a vehicle for lessons we needed to learn, perfect, or practice integrity. Those experiences were not designed to teach you that you or other people aren’t good enough. I would venture to say they even aren’t designed for punishment. They are there as stepping-stones to uncover the joy that is already there, already yours.
I am removed from joy when I think that it is something that must be earned. I am removed from joy when I feel like I am too much. I am removed from joy when I accept from myself and others less than what it is healthy, loving, and sustaining.
I am encouraged to take a step away from those things that do not lead to joy. I am working on forgiving myself and forgiving others, using Oprah’s quote that “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’” I am encouraged to continue discovering my true and sustaining joy.
…I am fearless and promised joy for simply being. I don’t have to earn it.
…I turn every experience into a lesson that reveals the keys to peace and joy.
…God has promised joy and is ordering my life to fulfill that.